Fake News targets NHS staff

That social media is awash with fake news will surprise precisely nobody.

Facebook, Twitter and their ilk are a conspiracy theorists nirvana.

But in the midst of a national pandemic another kind of fake news has been spotted. It is not to tell you that vaccines are bad for you. Nor that the COVID 19 virus escaped from Porton Down.

This one exists purely to tell you how wonderful the government are.

A fake account, @NHS_ Susan emerged this month and started posting sympathy messages in favour of our government. The account purports to be from an NHS nurse.

Now when we say fake, what do we mean. Well for starters the account may be called NHS_Susan, but it uses an image of an NHS paediatrics staff nurse, from Greece, Mia Magklavani,

whose photo appeared in the newsletter of the Sefton (Liverpool) branch of the Unison Union newsletter.

You can read the newsletter here http://www.seftonunison.co.uk/news/post/meet-our-nhs

Yet the description of NHS_Susan on twitter reads as follows: “Deaf NHS Jnr Doctor , transitioning in 2020, fighting COVID on behalf of all LGBTQ & non-binary people 🌈 fighting to #BANTHECLAP for NHS workers! #FBPE”

The messages NHS_Susan posted included “I’m not likening him to Jesus Christ…. but who else came back to life on Easter Sunday…..💁🏻‍♂️ #BorisisBACK #resurrection #ResurrectionSunday #BORIS #COVID19 #EasterSunday #coronavirus #borisjohnsonpm #BorisandtheDarkSurvival #BoristheSaviour”

And then there was this “Why are the media blaming the government for our NHS not having enough PPE? 3 months ago, we didn’t plan on stock piling hundreds of millions of masks just incase a global pandemic broke out. Asking the question daily isn’t going to get items delivered faster it’s boring.”

Which leads us to ask who is behind it? And why? And is this an abuse of public funds? Without getting back to the source code and trying to trace the address of the person who set up the fake account, there is a simple question that we can ask. Who benefits from the scam (and it is a scam)? The Government in general and the Department of Health in particular. Someone is playing games and whoever it is, is doing something that is in very poor taste.

Now we are not the only organisation investigating this misinformation and whether it is part of an orchestrated campaign or not. So it will also not come as a big surprise to discover that NHS_Susan’s account (which was only set up this month) has been deleted.

We approached the Department of Health and Social Care and asked them “Could you confirm that the Department of Health and Social Care has neither created fake twitter accounts in the name of NHS staff nor instructed contractors working for it to do the same?

It is fair to say that their response was not ambiguous. A spokesperson for the department told The Leveller “That’s correct – we categorically deny it….Our specialist teams currently do not see evidence of large-scale coordinated platform manipulation surrounding the Covid-19 conversation, including suggested coordination associated with the UK Government. As is standard, we will remove any pockets of smaller coordinated attempts to distort or inorganically influence the conversation. We are continuing to review and require the removal of Tweets that do not follow the Twitter Rules — half of which we catch before they’re ever reported to us. If people see anything suspicious on our service, please report it to us. This is an evolving global conversation and we will remain vigilant.

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